Thursday, May 27, 2010

When It’s All Blown Up – Beyond Crisis Communications.

The “disaster in the Gulf” has generated far more than sad deaths and leaking hydrocarbons – as if these are not enough. There was big-time yelling (did you see James Carville on TV yesterday?). Plenty of finger-pointing and blame-passing. Tremendous political pressure. And also, engineering challenges and potential triumphs when the leaks are stopped and the clean-up has been accomplished.

Looking back to the quiet times BL (Before Leak), you may find reading “Schumpeter” instructive. BL in this case is April 8, 2010, a couple of weeks before Deepwater Horizon blew up. The Schumpeter to whom I’m referring is the nom-de-plume of the regular Business editorializer for The Economist.

This Schumpeter wrote here about “Brand rehab.” He outlined two rules for successful crisis management:

First, the boss needs to take charge. This means sidelining corporate cluck-cluckers such as lawyers (who worry that any admission of guilt will lead to lawsuits) or financial officers (who obsess about the bottom line). It also means putting the survival of the company above personal considerations. Many of the most damaging crises, by contrast, have resulted from foot-dragging at the top.

The second rule is that crisis-racked firms should redouble their focus on their customers.

Now we’ve gone beyond the normal activities of crisis management, or crisis communications. In the case of the leaking well, all the stakeholders, from the crew and families of the sunken rig to the people who live and work along the shores of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to company shareholders, to politicians, have been seriously affected.

It’s not like the Tiger Woods version of the problem which The Economist article actually addresses. It is much more serious for everyone, including BP and Halliburton (which are clients) and Transocean (which is not).

No company operating in the Western business world today will ever be free of intense scrutiny. And so much has been written, broadcast and screamed about what ought to be done, should have been done – including nationalization of the offshore wells and lynching oil company executives – well, Signalwriter isn’t going to add to the load.

Except to ask you to take the long view. (Hard but not impossible.) The real Schumpeter – Joseph Schumpeter, 1883-1950 – wrote:

Every piece of business strategy acquires its true significance only against the background of that process [of Creative Destruction] and within the situation created by it.

The creative destruction of this offshore drilling event is going to massively affect business and regulatory strategies. The event’s going to change companies and regulators too. Will the effects and the changes be revolutionary…or evolutionary? I don’t have the answer; I look forward to taking part in the dialogue.

PS: I certainly expect some readers will take me to the woodshed because I’m wiritng about branding and marketing in the same post as the tragic events which began with the April 20 explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig. So, dear readers: “There’s lots of copy on these subjects – Google it for yourselves.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baker Petrolite Wins “Maverick Marketing” Crystal Award with a Knockout.

What do you call a boxer who gets beat up in a fight? A sore loser. (Alright, alright, it’s a clean joke.)

What do you call a creative idea whose marketing team uses it to build awareness and business in a striking new way? A winner – in this case, a Crystal Award winner.

Or you can call it the “Boxing Glove” box: the Baker Hughes LeakGuardTM Hydrocarbon Leak Detection and Mitigation Services package that started life as a direct mail idea and toted up even bigger results as a maverick marketing tool for tradeshow use. The winnah and new champeen of Crystal Awards Category 77: “Maverick Marketing.”

Finding and fixing the hydrocarbon leaks in refinery heat exchangers is a huge problem. They cost a huge amount of money. To fight this expensive trouble, Baker Petrolite created the branded LeakGuard program to deliver three big benefits: early leak detection; rapid ID of the leak source; and emergency mitigation of microbial growth. In other words, “Find Them Fast. Fix Them Fast.”

Brenda Bramhill, then-water treatment marketing manager, envisioned an offbeat marketing drive to surprise National Petrochemical and Refining Association (NPRA) attendees in Dallas. ‘Cause for the first time, NPRA would let sponsors purchase table-top display areas that could be operated during lunch and reception times. Petrolite had a whopping six hours over two days to get its message out – to create LeakGuard awareness and memorability.

Nobody can resist a big box. This big box has a boxing ring on the outside. It has a bright red Everlast™ boxing glove with the LeakGuard brand name, plus the tag line “Find Them Fast. Fight Them Fast,” on the inside. Plus it’s got your sell-them-don’t-just-tell-them program collateral (all theme-matching, thank you) and a call-to-action.

According to Bramhill, the Petrolite team handed out enough boxing glove boxes in the six hours time period so that “…people were lined up to get an opportunity to see what the excitement was all about, to experience the buzz for themselves.”

The Boxing Glove giveaway generated that buzz. When customers realized the symbolic nature of the glove and their problems with hydrocarbon leaks, they said this giveaway item was one of the most creative they’d ever seen. And Petrolite beat its going-in qualified lead goal by 100%.

Baker Petrolite Downstream Marketing Manager Scott Bieber emailed, “Thanks to Brenda and her team for bringing their ‘A game’ to the creation of this successful Baker Hughes promotional program!” The team included graphic artists Beth Ann Prete and Lucia Clark. Susan Bourgain and Haley Zerwas assisted with the direct mail part of the campaign. And Bieber was kind enough to mention my name too. I sure am proud to have had a part in this award-winner.
Look, more than 200 finalists brought their best to the 2010 AMA Houston Crystal Awards. There were more than 60 winners. The one I helped work on and bring to market – that’s the one I’m writing about. Thanks, Baker Petrolite and way to go. This one’s a knockout.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

When You Reach Heaven: Missionary Marketing Trumps Customer Loyalty.

Continuing to follow the iPad phenomenon is like watching a NASA shuttle launch (except for the obvious “end-of-the-road” thing imposed by the current Presidential administration). I not only wrote about how iPad has gone to market below (“How Has Apple Advertised the iPad”), but I posted about the effect of missionary marketing on the AMAHouston blog.

This week I was asked if Steve Jobs’s work with the iPad – like the iPod before it – wasn’t simply an extension of customer loyalty marketing: exceptionally powerful but still within the realm of CL.

No – I do not believe it’s the same thing. Even though there’s a path through customer loyalty programs that will turn a client’s customers into loyal missionaries for the business, CL classically helps you build strong relationships with your customers “by identifying, retaining and growing your best customers.”

This is one definition of CL by motivational experts Maritz. If you accept it, it consists of outwardly directed programs that foment brand loyalty and, in theory, strong Word-of-Mouth promotion activity. An Artists’ Center post about customer loyalty yields a slivver of wisdom about the needful effort: “…one of the best and easiest ways to get raving fans is to impress the $#@* out of them with your thoughtfulness.”

Missionaries, on the other hand, are true believers. This is more than a degree of difference from CL – yes, it does encompass the actual, stand-up-and-shout passion of the users of your company’s product or service. It is also self-powered. The missionaries themselves provide the energy and the initiative in marketing the product/service.

Therein lies the huge advantage that CEOs like Jobs can bring to their marketing. It’s not just Apple, either. It’s Starbucks (whether you agree or not) and Costco. [A fine BusinessWeek article about this is fortunately still online here.] When you are fortunate enough to have such a product or service in your line-up, or can make one happen, then you really are knock-knock-knocking on Heaven’s door.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

“How Has Apple Advertised the iPad” Is Worth a Reprise.

Having gone through this year’s Offshore Technology Conference and created a perfectly good post for the AMAHouston blog about iPad missionaries, I wanted to explore the state of marketing for Apple’s newest miracle a bit further.

Floating the sea of content about the tablet is a fine post on the Penn Olson blog by Willis Wee – a fine if not quite up to date review of how Apple has taken the iPad to market. Read this. See how many of the initial parts were fitted together to make whoopee for Apple (and early adopters throughout the US).

Come on: It took the company only 28 days to sell one million iPads. Apple also announced that iPad customers have downloaded over 12 million apps and more than 1.5 million e-books from iBookstore since its April 3 launch.

So while it’s wonderful to think that missionary marketing was the key to this achievement, Apple – as usual – hardly left such things to chance. Wee’s article shows how the pipe was laid. Now I wonder how long I can keep from buying an iPad for myself.